Clement’s Answer To The Corinthian Conflict In Ad 96 -- By: Davorin Peterlin

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 39:1 (Mar 1996)
Article: Clement’s Answer To The Corinthian Conflict In Ad 96
Author: Davorin Peterlin


Clement’s Answer To The Corinthian Conflict In Ad 96

Davorin Peterlin*

Toward the end of the first century, probably around AD 96, 1 Clement, a leader of the church in Rome (“de facto der führende Mann der Gemeinde” 2 or “a leading—perhaps the leading—presbyter-bishop” 3 ), wrote to the church in Corinth. He explained that he was writing concerning the “abominable and unholy schism” (1:1) that occurred among the Corinthians and was instigated by some “impetuous and headstrong fellows.” These rebellious members of the congregation were “young” (3:3), and although few in number they apparently succeeded in securing at least tacit support of the rest (47:6).

Exactly what the insurgents’ qualifications or platform for action were is not clear. They have frequently been seen as ascetics (38:2), elitists in pursuit of higher gnosis (48:2), or ecstatics who spoke in tongues (21:5; 57:2), “although the references are actually open to the interpretation that they were persuasive and powerful speakers.” 4 Many commentators see in them charismatics, 5 neo-charismatics 6 or pneumatics. 7 W. Wrede represents the opposite view: “Had Clement wanted to say that they were ‘pneumatics,’ he would have done so.” 8 In chaps. 1–7 the author depicts the dissenters primarily as people driven by jealousy and envy, pursuing their own selfish desires.

Polarization occurred over regular church prayer meetings and, in particular, over the ministry performed by presbyters 9 whose position the

* Davorin Peterlin is graduate studies director at Evangelical Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 370, 54103 Osijek, Croatia.

young laics (40:5) coveted. The strife reached its peak in the action of the more numerous party. They removed some of the duly appointed presbyters from their positions, although apparently not all of them. what made the action inexcusable to Clement is that the presbyters gave no occasion for it: They had fulfilled their ministry blamelessly (44:6).

Because of the scantiness of information it is difficult to define the nature of the conflict. Did the pneumatics think that their particular gifts were not receiving adequate recognition? Did they wish annual elections for the offi...

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